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on 6 September 2011
At only 8 pages, 'Piece' forms only a small part of this collection but is a gem that outshines some of the longer works.It is a darkly ironic story about coincidence, faith and reason with a devastating denouement.

'Descendant' offers an unsettling new perspective on the human- machine interface and the potential shifting balance of power within this, with the emergence of sentient machines.

'The state of the Art' is an interesting assessment of the human condition from an alien perspective in which Banks, despite all humanity's shortcomings, persuades the reader it really is good to be human.

'Scratch' is worth persevering with and rereading,as it represents (I think) a damning indictment of the ephemeral nature, pace and inequalities of modern life as well as the pernicious influence of the tabloid press.

A worthy collection written in Banks's characteristic gritty style- a valid reflection on the state of the human condition.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 13 April 2006
"The State of the Art" is a collection of short stories by Iain M Banks, similar in theme to the rest of his writings. The best of the collection is the novella from which the book derives it's title. In that piece, Banks describes how a Culture GCU almost made contact with Earth in 1977, but decided to leave us alone ,at least for a while longer. It is a pity that tale couldn't have been expanded upon and turned into a proper full-length novel, because most of the rest of the stories in this collection are too short and inconsequential. The "best of the rest" in my opinion are "Cleaning Up" , a humourous story about a malfunctioning Quality Control system on a starship and "Descendant" , a sad tale of one man and his sentient spacesuit stranded on an alien world. "Road of Skulls", "Scratch" and "Piece" weren't really worth including in this compilation in my opinion.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2003
This was the first Ian M. banks book I bought, and I was so lucky to get a bargain hardcover edition as well. The books offers a lot of stories from his beginning period, most of them outside the 'Culture', about which most of Ian M. Bank's succesful SF-work handles. To me it was a good , but unspectacular introduction to his work, not as powerful as the early science fiction works like 'The Player of Games' or 'The Use of Weapons'. Nor did it leave the impression of his early mainstream novels 'The Wasp Factory', 'The Bridge' or 'Walking on Glass'. Altogether I would say that Ian Banks is better at longer works, where his whit and cleverness can be used to a better extend than in his short stories, good as they are. I do look forward to read his next short story collection, for he is one of the best writers in Britain at the moment.
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on 16 June 2011
If you have read Iain M Banks's later 'Culture' novels you will be attracted by the novella that the book is named after. It is not quite in the same future history, but has a lot of the same features. Like the short stories around it, however, the fact that it was written by an author still learning his trade and establishing his own voice does show. So if you are starting with Iain M Banks, don't start here. If you want another 'Culture' novel and you have not yet exhausted them try a different one. If you have read them all, you will want to buy this for completeness and it will not wholly disappoint.
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on 18 January 2015
The third in this series I have read though not in any particular order. Like the unusual take on alien cultures and ways of life coupled with a decent story line that takes most of the book to unravel. I would think these books are readable by people who are not that keen on science fiction because the author does not dabble in dubious explanations of why the laws of physics are distorted or worked around in this particular fictional reality. I'm going to try a few more in this series.
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on 31 December 2013
Iain Banks (RIP) was a master at novels, either sci-fi or his own twisted view of the late 20th century.
This is unusual as it is,as far as i know, the only collection of his short fiction.The best part of it is the novella in which the Culture arrive here in this solar system in 1977,and dismisses us as being too primitive to be of any note and decide to leave us alone.
Well worth it at this price.
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on 19 March 2011
This is an enjoyable collection of a Culture novella, plus some short stories. The book is worth getting for the Culture novella alone, at about 100 pages it's by far the longest of the pieces in the collection, and is highly enjoyable.

The short stories are more of a "mixed bag" - the best are very good, but here are a couple of weaker ones - hence the book does not deserve five-stars overall.
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on 6 July 2015
I found the Culture series by Iain Banks completely by mistake.Since then I've really got into them.Even though this is book 4 of the series,it's more of a collection of short stories.All of them very easy to get into,however if your not really into sci-fi,then maybe not for you.Otherwise if you are a sci-fi fan,try these short stories and the culture series may also grow on you.
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on 24 February 2014
Well I decided to make my way through Iain Banks' Culture series following his untimely passing and I ordered this as it was next on the list. However as it is a compilation of short stories it was not as enjoyable. I did however read a few of them and but I have already started the next book in the series. I don't think I could recommend it though.
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on 12 April 2010
My copy arrived in good time,and in good condition.Its a collection of shorts plus a novella.It's not all in "the culture" universe, and if you're used to his later, grander work, well, he hadn't worked up to quite that standard then.But, it's still petty good in it's own right, and as a collection-completer, it's a must-have.
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